Everyone has a different experience of being diagnosed as diabetic and for me it happened at a young age, only 9 years old. Being diagnosed at such a young age can affect how you react to you diabetes in later life and can make it harder or easier to cope with the lifelong diagnosis. How long ago a diagnosis was made can also affect what treatment you are given, and for me, the experience was an oddly positive one.
Being diagnosed as a child somehow made the diagnosis easier, and as a child I didn’t really understand what it was I had gone into hospital for. I didn’t have the usual symptoms like most type 1 diabetics: I didn’t lose weight, I wasn’t incredibly thirsty and I don’t recall needing the toilet all the time. But I do remember feeling light headed, feeling like I was in a dream, like I was walking on a cloud, almost floating every time I went for a walk with my family after school. It was this overwhelming strange feeling that led to the doctors testing me for diabetes.
When the diagnosis came back, I remember being rushed into the hospital with my family upset. My Mum was crying and I didn’t know why, I didn’t think there was anything wrong. I was admitted into the children’s ward in the evening, after I’d already had dinner. I spent the night hooked up to drips, lying in a strange bed, trying to get sleep while a couple of other kids were also admitted with other problems. Sleeping anywhere else other than my own bed has always been hard and for the most part I didn’t sleep that night. I remember just watching the family across from my bed and wondering how long I’d have to be there.
Being in hospital turned out to be a fun experience and I started enjoying myself after my blood sugars had stabilised. The children’s ward of the hospital I went to was small and made up of small rooms with one to four kids in any room. There was a big play room on the ward and despite being nine, almost ten, and among kids who were all younger than me, I enjoyed myself in that place. It didn’t feel like a hospital, and I didn’t really feel like a patient. For a few days I just had to eat what I was told and because the hospital wasn’t great at provided vegetarian meals, my Mum kept bringing ready made meals into the ward for me to eat! Yes, that’s right, the hospital actually let me eat ready made microwave meals…It was better than the food they had, believe me!
Being an inpatient as a child I was missing school. I spent a week away from school learning to eat the right foods and learning to count them. Once I’d learned these things I was finally taken off the drip, where I could start attending the hospital’s own school, which they had downstairs, under the children’s ward. To be honest the school was cool, but I didn’t really learn that much. We did a few basic sums, but I was on the older age, and just in the bracket where I could still attend. Teenagers ended up in the children’s ward if they were sick, but from the age of eleven onwards, the school there couldn’t cater for them, but that didn’t stop the lovely teacher playing all sorts of fun games with us, many of them based on drawing and playing some kind of treasure hunt on paper.
After a week of being given the insulin I needed, a week of not worrying about anything, I finally had to start injecting myself. I also had to test my own blood sugars and it was this that I hated most. The nurses had always taken my blood and I couldn’t bare to make myself bleed. I got so scared at the thought of doing it, that a doctor, nurse and even my family couldn’t stop me from crying and having a panic attack. I cried and cried so much that I just couldn’t do it. It was something about drawing my own blood that seemed so utterly wrong to my own mind, I just didn’t want to hurt myself that way.
But hurt myself I did and eventually I had learned to cope with testing myself and injecting insulin into my body. Injecting wasn’t difficult and I could do it easily myself and the nurses made sure I could do this all myself. They didn’t want my family to help me, they wanted me to be able to do it all myself. They gave me advise on where to inject myself: stomach, legs and arms, even buttocks, but I couldn’t do, and didn’t want to, do more than the first two.
A new regime
Becoming diabetic was strange. I felt like I had been on holiday at the hospital and had come back home with these new rules I had to follow. Getting back to my old life at school wasn’t difficult, in fact for once, the wallflower had become the interesting showpiece. People were asking me about my injections, about where I’d been and I didn’t mind telling them. For once I felt special at school, I even got a ‘Get Well Soon’ card from my whole class. The school went out of its way to help me feel safe and cared for too. The teachers learned about diabetes, they had a special form up with my name and picture in their staff room, detailing what to do with me if I ever collapsed. The school even went out of it’s way to buy books for my class, all about a diabetic girl, so everyone could understand the condition better.
Being diagnosed had changed things. I had to start testing my blood sugars at school. I had to start injecting myself twice a day and I had to be more mature and responsible because of it. But being diagnosed never felt bad. The staff and the hospital and later at the school, went out of their way to make me feel good. To make me feel that I was normal, and that diabetes wouldn’t rule or ruin my life. Being diagnosed was a good experience for me, it didn’t lead to any depression in fact for the most part I was cheerful and positive at the time…Too bad it didn’t stay that way though…
Being so young at the time of diagnosis must have had an effect on how well I took the news. I do know that the older you are, the worse you usually feel, perhaps because you can remember your life without the condition or maybe it’s just that children cope better with some things. What do you think?
How was your experience being diagnosed as diabetic? Did you have a diagnosis late or early in your life? How do you feel about your diagnosis now? Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂